Widespread Gambling Ads Spark Concern In Plausible Link To Problem Gambling
Gambling advertising is effective. The problem is, the Caesars ads with an actual Caesar and the DraftKings ads that look slick and fun may be too effective.
Research is strongly connecting the proliferation of gambling advertisements and the number of people admitting a gambling addiction. Referencing this data, the research team of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is asking authorities to consider placing restrictions on ads. In conclusion, they suggest that limiting the amount of advertising gaming licensees can do may benefit the masses.
Up to this point, commissioners in the state have been long locked in a battle to approve sports betting. While there are no immediate plans to limit advertising capabilities, officials seem open to the idea.
Mark Vander Linden is the commission’s director of research and responsible gaming. In a wbur.com report, he additionally states that the advertising grows ubiquitous and concerning.
“Advertising today utilizes user-specific data collected through social media and other means to push out highly targeted ads through our smartphones and other screens. On the surface, it appears this is the free market at play. But gambling is not a risk-free activity and therefore commissioners may wish to consider additional measures to limit and/or contain gambling advertising in Massachusetts by our licensees and their parent companies in order to minimize harm.”
Possible restrictions on gambling advertising
The research team presented a government study meant to provide data and a potential action plan. For reference, among the ideas cited in the action plan were:
- No advertising placed with intensity and frequency that it saturates the medium
- A portion of each licensee marketing and advertising budget goes to responsible gaming messages
- Set up a resource where violations on advertising proliferation are reportable
- Create mandatory training for casino officials in advertising and marketing
- Continuing research on the impact of gambling advertising
The research team did a six–year study of responsible and problem gambling in Massachusetts.
Research manager Marie–Claire Flores–Pajot said there’s a direct link to gambling ads and problem gambling. Continuing, she emphasizes that there doesn’t even need to be a casino to physically enter.
“The increased publicity and media attention about gambling aligned with those elevated rates of problem gambling indicating that those relapses in problem gambling were not likely due to the physical availability to gamble – because the casino was not open – but rather due to the increased publicity and media attention in advance of the opening of the casino.”
Pulling weeds on gambling advertising
One idea floated over to the Gaming Commission was modeling gambling advertising after the way cannabis is advertised.
Cannabis owner/operators can’t advertise unless 85 percent of the audience is believed to be 21 or older. Restrictions like this on gambling advertising would severely reduce the ability to advertise on television. And really, what sporting event has an audience that is strictly 21 and older?
Mark Gottlieb stands as the executive director of the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern School of Law. He spoke at a Stop Predatory Gambling event in February and compared current gambling ads to tobacco advertisements that aired in the 1950’s.
“In states with sports betting, the advertising is absolutely saturating the market, and everyone in those markets is noticing it. It seems like it’s overtaken ads for insurance, which I didn’t even think was possible, cars and even beer by a considerable margin.”
Dealing with the gambling addictions in Massachusetts
March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month, already highlighting the problems of those fighting a gambling addiction and helping those find services to help. In Massachusetts, the state’s three gaming licensees are unable to target anyone younger than 21 with ads and from marketing to anyone on the voluntary self-exclusion list.
The self–exclusion program is an entirely voluntary resource for individuals struggling with a possible or present gambling addiction. Here, they turn their contact information and jump onto a list limiting the number of solicitations they receive. Furthermore, this list also bans the patron from entering any land-based casino, or collecting any online winnings.
Lastly, bans are solidified for a certain span of years (in Massachusetts it’s for anywhere between one, three or five years), or for a lifetime.